Letters to the Editor: The World needs her Witches

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(TWH) – David Brooks, in his New York Times Op Ed, June 10,2019 The Age of Aquarius, All Over Again! was lazily inspired by a lengthy article by Tara Isabella Burton in The American Interest regarding “The Rise of Progressive Occultism”, adding his own rambling speculations to hers about the increasingly visible intersection and impact of resistance (“left-wing”) politics, astrology, mindfulness, wokeness and Witchcraft.  Brooks acknowledges them as a responses to the “major needs of the moment” but fails to understand what those real needs are and how Witchcraft, in particular, has provided meaningful answers for much longer than a moment.  He’s all over the map, dismissing it all as “occultism” in response to troubled times, which is why he’s confused by the “surprisingly normal” political activism of Witches. Brooks doubts “it’s possible to have “tight community and also total autonomy,” doubts that we can have something “life-shaping” because we have “detached [our] spiritual practices from the larger narratives and cultures,” doubts it is “sustainable.”

It’s precisely the kind of privileged, patriarchal pontificating that makes women (and others) run naked and laughing into the woods when the moon if full.

Brooks, however, is right when he quotes Burton that:  “Wicca … is technically the fastest-growing religion in America.”  We public Witches, a brave few for many years, have known and asserted this growth rate since the early 90’s (and the NY Times stated it in an article years back). The rapid and sustained growth reflects not just our rebellion against patriarchal institutions, the primary cause enumerated in these two attention–grabbing pieces, but our advocacy for the positive, empowering and enlightening gifts of this rediscovered and recreated spirituality.

Phyllis Curott [Courtesy]

Witchcraft is not a dogmatic belief system. It is a spiritual practice, both personal and collective. No one is asked to believe in someone else’s interpretation of the Divine because everyone can experience the Divine themselves – and not just in realms of spirit, but embodied by the natural world and by each of us. And that means by women, and those whose gender identification is non-binary, who have been excluded from sacred pursuits for millennia. A Witch means a wise one, someone who sees the Sacred and there’s a Witch in all of us. There may even be one in David Brooks if we could get him out of his head and into the woods.

Contrary to Brooks’ assertion that the individualism of our spirituality negates a worldview or ethos, Witches know that while our paths are unique, we are all traveling in the same sacred landscape. It is our experience of an embodied divinity, of living in a sacred world, that calls us to activism, that inspires us to embody, protect and revere the innate divinity of Creation, to act in sacred ways because we live in and are part of a sacred world.

It is a profound ethos motivated not by rules and fear of punishment by a distant male God, but by the love and gratitude we feel with each breath we take, each sip of water we swallow, each bite of food that sustains our lives, all gifts of life from Mother Earth. We want to give back for all that we have been given.

That we are a spirituality of rebels is no surprise. Witchcraft was forced into near extinction – what we did to the Indigenous peoples of the world we did first to ourselves. And about this there is far more to say than Brooks or Burton begin to fathom. But the wisdom of our ancestors – and it was the wisdom of our ancestors as the linguistic roots of “witch” go back more than 5000 years to the Proto-Indo-European language – was the wisdom and practice of shamanism, a way to see the Sacred.

Shamanic practices are universal, healing the blindness that has led us to the brink of extinction and the destruction of the planet. But you don’t have to be a Witch to rediscover the” secret magic of Nature,” revealed and so named most recently by biologists: All living things, when they are taking care of themselves – eating, procreating, recreating, even evacuating – simultaneously make the world in which they reside better for all LIFE.

It is a creed so divinely perfect that you don’t have to believe in God, or Goddess, or practice Witchcraft to know that our old models of domination and exploitation are wrong.  Regardless of tradition or religion, we are all children of Mother Earth and there is an embodied and universal wisdom waiting to be rediscovered. We have little time left to do so.

Witchcraft is the fastest growing spirituality in America. Pew Internet Research has finally confirmed it and it is making news. The movement nurtured with so much love for so long by so few has exploded into mainstream visibility and influence. Which requires those of us who have called ourselves Witches for many years and those who are just coming to it, to see, think and speak clearly about the true wisdom and ethos of Witches and Witchcraft and Mother Earth: We are part of a sacred world and so we are all called to live in a sacred way.

There is a reason we are here now. The world needs her Witches.


Phyllis Curott is a pioneering spiritual teacher and one of America’s first out Wiccan priestesses/Witches. As an attorney, she was engaged in groundbreaking cases establishing the legal rights of Witches, Wiccans and Pagans. Her four internationally best-selling books including Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman’s Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft have made Witchcraft accessible to the world and awakened an entire generation to this powerful practice. Phyllis has been widely profiled in the media, honored by Jane Magazine as One of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year, inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collegium of Clergy and Scholars, and elected Vice Chair of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Phyllis was the first to integrate core shamanism into Witchcraft and founded of the Temple of Ara, one of the oldest Wiccan congregations in America.


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